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Is M/M Slash Like Pseudo-Lesbian Porn Produced for Straight Men? - Is M/M Slash Like Pseudo-Lesbian Porn Produced for Straight Men? - Mo's Journal Page 3 — LiveJournal
January 22nd, 2009
02:22 pm

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Is M/M Slash Like Pseudo-Lesbian Porn Produced for Straight Men?
When I first heard of slash (approximately 4 weeks before I started writing the stuff) it seemed very strange to me. The idea of stories about sexual and/or romantic connections between putatively heterosexual male characters from movies, comic books, tv shows, books was not something I'd ever contemplated before. "Who reads this?" I wondered and was surprised to find that mostly women do, mostly women living heterosexual lives, and that many find slash sexually arousing.

Now, straight men being interested in sex between women is nothing surprising or new and a large subset of commercial porn output consists of pseudo-lesbian scenes (complete with long nails and not-particularly-realistic sex acts) aimed at the heterosexual market. So, is slash just the female equivalent of that?

I don't think it is, although both have in common the idea that if you're into men or women, two might be twice as nice as one. But I don't think that's all there is to either phenomenon.
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So, dear f-list, what do you think? Do you find my generalizations true generally :-)? Are they true for you as individuals? Are some of them so off-base that I should strike them? Can you think of others that should be added?

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From:alchemia
Date:January 31st, 2009 08:26 pm (UTC)
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I'm very interested in the whole "Why Slash?" question.

I don't know anymore; I think there's so many different reasons for different people, that it's impossible to accurately sum-up.

Not all slash is explicitly sexual. As far as I know, there is nothing for straight men that's comparable to romantic m/m slash focused on relationship building, with little or no actual sex.

What about women on tv shows or suimsuit type photos? Ok, maybe a suimsuit photo is not 'relationship building' but my brain's still organising swim suit photos close to fan-art of a single male or slash male pairing that is pre-slash or G to PG rated artwork.


Women are more interested in text; men in pictures. At least that's the conclusion I draw from observing what medium is more prevalent in each.

I wonder how much people have been taught to be this way, or self-fullfil it... like saying women are poor at maths, therefor many women dont bother trying at it. I mean, lots of men read and write (in general), lots of women are visual artists, so why do we simplify it to men-visual, women-verbal? Are there other reasons there could be a skew in the kinds of porn produced for different groups... eg: has the cost of visual porn (film cameras, colour magazine printing etc) etc historically been easier for men to afford?
I do think that there is something different in male ans female brains - that women are more social/relationship/feeling focused and men more spatial/statistics/plot focused (although even this feels like a crude generalisation), but visual vs verbal seems too overly simplified to me.

Women are more interested in there being some story or character. Even what's labeled PWP has more sense of character and plot than a lot of male oriented porn.

Are you comparing the film/photo porn to written slash; or film/photo to art and written lesbian porn to written slash porn? IMHO both written lesbian porn and slash fall down on plot, and i see no more or less plot in the visual forms of lesbian porn vs slash. I don't like simplifying to women do character better and men do plot better because outside of porn, i find either gender can be equally good at (or abysmal at) plot and/or characterisation.

Many women like m/m sex where one of the men is very feminized in behavior and personality and somewhat androgynous in appearance (not what I write and not what I like *at all* but it's very common) and pseudo-lesbian porn tends not to have butch-looking or acting women. Both women tend to be very classically feminine in their dress, makeup, nails (yikes) and demeanor.

I don't pay much attention to the slash where 1 character is ultra-feminised, but someone in a discussion elsewhere had made the comment elsewhere that the feminised character in these was the lesser-experienced/virgin/innocent while the more masculine one was the experienced/teacher. Because of that, when I read your description here, I immediately thought of all the F/F and F/F/M porn out there where the women, although both ultra feminine, are of clearly different ages and experience levels; the older one usually teaching he younger one all about sex (before the M gets involved, if this is a F/F/M (eg: established couple involves their "babysitter")


From all the slash discussions I've been involved in and/or read over the years it seems to me that women interact with the text somewhat differently from men. Women tend to insert themselves...

Given what i've read thru metafandom about female vs male gaze in film and porn and slash, I wonder how much these reading styles are learned vs inborn; and/or if men would hold back admitting to reading/viewing in such a way (b/c what it imply about their sexuality)

Edited at 2009-01-31 08:28 pm (UTC)
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From:mofic
Date:January 31st, 2009 09:40 pm (UTC)
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I hope nothing I said about observed gender differences seemed to imply that such differences are innate, since I certainly didn't mean to imply that. I don't think that there is an either/or with gender roles - that either gender traits are innate or learned. I think it's absolutely clear that there is tons of pressure exerted in society for people to conform to gender expectations and that those who don't are punished in a variety of ways. So there's clearly a social element, but there may well be an innate one, too. We can't determine what the innate one is, though, given the huge social pressure.

As a feminist in general and as a parent in particular, I feel my role is to try to diminish the negative consequences of gender nonconformist behavior, because - whether gender conformity is natural or not - it's oppressive to those who don't find it natural to them. And we all have areas, I believe, where gender conformity does not feel natural to us - it's just that some of them have larger consequences in the world than others. I'm not personally very interested in what portion is innate and what imposed - I just want to reduce the imposition.
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From:sailorptah
Date:January 31st, 2009 10:34 pm (UTC)
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I prefer visual f/f porn (usually yuri manga) and textual m/m porn (usually slashfic). I draw lots of sexy women; I tend to write more about men.

(Gay cisgendered woman, for the record.)

I don't know what that says about how I fit into this.

I suspect it has something to do with male bodies being visually meh as far as I'm concerned, so I'll read the slash with a focus on the characterization and emotions, and mentally edit the squicky bits out of the visuals.

But then again, the most explicit thing I've ever written involving a female body was when a guy had been genderswapped, had to have sex in order to switch back (long story), and was thoroughly freaked out by his altered body, so his [male] partner used m/m dirty talk to help him through it. The scene was literally a fusion of f/f visuals (hand + clitoris) and m/m verbiage (the character describing it as a handjob).

So maybe I'm just a bizarre outlier? I dunno.
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From:zerl
Date:February 1st, 2009 07:28 am (UTC)
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Wait, you read yuri?
::feels like she's discovered her favorite singer has lived in her own neighborhood::

You know much better about it then, seeing as I haven't read a single one.
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From:rin_x_x
Date:February 1st, 2009 02:37 am (UTC)
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The only thing I can comment on here right now is that I don't necessarily agree with anyone trying to compare lesbian porn marketed for men, and M/M slash for women. Not all slash is porn, so I don't think you can evenly compare the two, unless you're just going off of PWP.

Personally, I wish I saw A LOT more freaking m/m stuff in my fandoms that didn't have porn or have the main plot with the main characters trying to get jiggy with it. It happens very rarely it seems, and most of it tends not to be that good.. but beggers can't be choosers, really. *sigh*
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From:rin_x_x
Date:February 1st, 2009 02:38 am (UTC)
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Oh, and genderqueer pansexual over here. :)
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From:zerl
Date:February 1st, 2009 07:01 am (UTC)

Here from the daily_snitch

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I'm not on your f-list, but hope I can give you some food for thought by adding a cultural counterpoint: yaoi.

The Japanese cultural phenomena of yaoi / shounenai / boys' love are similar to the Western world of slash in some ways, while being dissimilar to it in other ways. The genre started out as fan-made parodies of mainstream mangas and animes, as slash has originated in fanficcing, but by now the genre of male-on-male romantic fiction has become an established sub-genre of erotica/romance novels and mangas, slowly but surely spreading its way into audio dramas and animes. Thus in Japan,

-A huge number of m/m stories are commercially produced and consumed by women, although there are still sub-genres of slashy novels and mangas that are produced and consumed in tight-knit communities in the form of fanfiction.

-The m/m stories targeted for women are not necessarily textual novels. There are just as many, if not more, yaoi romances and erotica published in manga format, some of which are very explicit. (In fact, male-oriented porn tend to be more strictly regulated as people tend to discount female sexual desire, and so sometimes NC17 yaoi mangas can even be more prone to falling into children's hands than similar m/f mangas targeted for men.)

...These are the main differences I can see between the two cultures.

-The feminine/masculine gender-role thing, you've probably heard how the yaoi tradition takes it one step further and rigidly assigns topping/bottoming roles to the characters with associated behavioral patterns. In the convention of f/f equivalent of yaoi, which is called "yuri" and usually thought of as targeted towards men (although, unlike with lesbo porn, lesbian women are known to enjoy it too), there seems to be a weaker focus on gendered sex roles, if any. This follows your impression of slash vs. pseudo-lesbian porn.

-The focus on story/character thing, I think, holds for our cultures too, to some extent. While it's true that m/f manga porn also strongly focuses on character traits (such as docile, spunky-turned-spoony, infantile, dominating, etc.), there is said to be a marked difference in the amount of text on the pages depicting sex. That is, characters having sex in female-oriented erotica (of both m/f and m/m persuasion) tend to have lots of things on their minds while in the act, *besides* the physical OMG-this-feels-good, as compared to male-oriented porn in manga form. And these thoughts tend to get described in detail. Whereas in male-oriented porn if there's any inner monologue it tends to be within the realms of "OMG I'm scared of this huge tentacle monster raping me." Same goes for Western porn and erotica, too, maybe?

(Although, I do think Japanese male-oriented porn of both het and gay types can have quite a bit of character development and plots thrown in as part of its pornographic appeal. For instance there are anime-illustrated RPG porn games where your character has to enamour the women or men they encounter to get them into bed. There the players are meant to enjoy the process, just as the female players of yaoi games are meant to do.)

-I'm not sure about the "threat of my gender" being necessarily homophobia-based in men and misogyny-based in women. To go back to the yuri example, some men who are passionate about this genre claim that they prefer the imagery of sexy women entangled with each other without getting sullied by men. Which is misogynous and heterosexist, but resonates deeply in both of our cultures I think. Some yaoi lovers feel the same way about not wanting to see a woman getting f--ked: that image strikes them as too directly sexual, and therefore disgusting. Whereas two pretty boys doing each other is in the realm of "fantasy" for them, they say, and thus less immediately sexual. I don't personally see it that way, but to each their own, in both cultural waters.
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From:mofic
Date:February 1st, 2009 01:47 pm (UTC)

Re: Here from the daily_snitch

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Thanks for the thoughts. I think comparing slash and yaoi deserves its own essay. You should use this as a jumping off point and write one!
From:grey_hunter
Date:February 1st, 2009 08:45 am (UTC)
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here via daily_snitch

Yes it is. With different accents of course, because men and women have different switches that turn them on, both physically and emotionally/intellectually, but that's what I always thought it was deep down if you strip away every little euphemism and artistic notion people tend to add to it to make it more socially/morally acceptable to others and themselves.
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From:rhaniyago
Date:February 1st, 2009 11:19 am (UTC)
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I think, too, that a lot of your comments/remarks are true for me, too. I have been reading a lot of m/m slash for around 3-4 years now. Mostly H/D, sometimes H/SS or H/D/SS. Never f/f slash, nearly never het. In the past, when watching some het porn - not often but anyway - I never really liked it and believed what scientists say about women being more into taste/smelling/words, and men more into pictures. But I do like m/m porn (even hardcore) and would have no problem with "real" actors - like Dan Radcliff with Tom Felton (if only they could be convinced) to act in one of the many fanfics I read. I realised some time ago what disturbed me really were the women acting in porn. I totally accept that this is ok for other women, be it het or f/f slash - but I dislike my own (female) body to such a point that I cannot enjoy watching other women. So reading or watching m/m slash, I obviously can imagine myself taking the part of one of the two guys in the story/film. Or acting like a - male - spectator.
I do not particularly like feminised men - although nothing wrong with a little makeup or fishnet stockings - which I like especially for Draco as I see him. I really prefer "equal" partnerships, both of the men strong and "virile", although some insecurities are ok - that's how people are.
Regarding men watching (pseudo)lesbian films - this certainly is different. I think most of them still think along the lines: "they just haven't found the right guy to give it to them", and would never imagine themselves as a woman in this constellation.
Reading m/m slash helped me personally to learn a lot about myself - things I really was not aware of and changed my view on myself and a lot of (sometimes really stupid) things I did in the past. (hope my poor English is understandable)
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From:mofic
Date:February 1st, 2009 01:45 pm (UTC)
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but I dislike my own (female) body to such a point that I cannot enjoy watching other women.

That made me wince. Do you mean that you dislike female bodies, so don't like to look at women? Or that you dislike your own body in comparison to the women on screen? Either way I think it's sad and wish you liked your body (not that the wishes of a complete stranger matter or anything).

I'm assuming H/D means "Harry/Draco" since you mention Draco later. I was stuck on SS but then decided it must mean "Severus Snape." Why is he not just S? Is that a convention in Harry Potter fandom? Is there another S character I'm not thinking of now that he would be confused with?

It's interesting that you think of Draco as wearing makeup or women's stockings. Do you think you got that idea from fanfic? Surely there's nothing in the books to suggest that he would dress like that...
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From:alixtii
Date:February 2nd, 2009 09:43 pm (UTC)
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A fascinating list. I've had similar thoughts myself--although I think there's a potential intellectual trap in my becoming too invested in the idea that my interest in femslash is different (read: "better") than another man's intereste in pseudolesbian porn. At the beginning of undergrad I would have objected strongly to the "men tend to insert themselves into the scene by imagining themselves joining the two women" generalization (I would have accepted the premise that two women together are hot, but would have ascribed it something closer to the motivations you give m/m slashers), but now I'm more likely to accept my own experience as something other than representative of my gender.

I definitely fall on the "female" side of each of your binaries. I don't know if the "men" side describes men (I suspect it does to a lesser or greater degree), but your description of women in fandom fits my experience.
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From:mofic
Date:February 2nd, 2009 10:06 pm (UTC)
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Hmm, are you a man or a woman, if that's not too personal a question? :-) I'm just wondering because your first paragraph seems to say you are a man and your second to identify yourself as a woman. Or maybe I'm misreading.

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From:missyjack
Date:February 3rd, 2009 12:06 am (UTC)
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Ia m interested in your point that "Men sometimes feel threatened by explicit heterosexual porn because of fear that they are reacting sexually to the *man* in the scene, so pseudo-lesbian porn isn't scary in the same way." Why is this true for straight men viewing girl-on-girl porn, and not for straight slashers? In the case of straight women I think it is more likely internalised mysogyny as much/or more than homophobia.
I find, as a lesbian, i seem to enjoy het pornogrpahy (whether written or visual) mroe than some of my straight female friends.
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From:mofic
Date:February 3rd, 2009 12:44 am (UTC)
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In the case of straight women I think it is more likely internalised mysogyny as much/or more than homophobia

Yes, that's my impression, too, as I said in the essay. A lot of women in slash say that they find descriptions of heterosexual sex "yucky" because it has a woman in it. And these are women saying it, and women who are married to men and engage in heterosexual sex. It's a really different dynamic from being afraid that you might be attracted to someone of your own gender, which seems more of a heterosexual male concern.
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From:kitsune13
Date:February 3rd, 2009 01:05 am (UTC)
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As a couple other people have touched on, "m/m slash" and commercial lesbian porn for men" are not equivalent categories, because they arise out of very different communities and perceived audiences. I think one of the biggest mistakes people doing the "why do women like slash" thing is extrapolating slash fans onto *all* women. Slash is a very specific kind of erotic/romantic text: it is *fanfiction*, first and foremost, and the people writing slash are by definition the ones interested and invested in *those* characters. Slash fans are very much a self-selecting group: these are the folks who get their kicks by reading and writing about characters they're already invested in having a same-sex relationship. Slash fans -- and *erotic fanfic fans in general* -- are (mainly) women who like a certain type of character-heavy porn. (Even PWP relies upon the audience's interest in the characters to draw in readers.) But that can't necessarily be extrapolated onto all women, and doesn't function as an equivalent to men getting off on commercial lesbian porn; lesbian porn -- like the vast majority of commercial porn -- is *not* about character, so the primary audience for it are not those who need to care about the people having sex on screen. Those who *do* like character in their porn find other places to get it, and fanfiction is one of those places.

And it's a fallacy that women "naturally" prefer the textual to the visual, as others have noted; Jane Juffer, in At Home with Pornography points out that historical circumstances matter, and are perhaps the driving force behind this seeming gendered preference. It has always been easier for women to be involved, as consumers and especially producers, with *written* porn. Women just had, and have, more access and slightly more control over texts than over other forms of pornographic media. (In fact, in the 18th c., the usual literary porn conceit was that the reader was a lady who needs to keep her chambermaid from peeking at the naughty stuff.)

Is any of this making sense? I'm a bit rambly today. :)
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From:mofic
Date:February 3rd, 2009 04:08 am (UTC)
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Is any of this making sense?

Sort of. You seem to be arguing with statements that weren't made, at least not here. But maybe that's what you mean by rambling - that you're just saying what this essay made you think of, not responding to it...
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From:unsentimentalf
Date:February 3rd, 2009 06:06 pm (UTC)
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(over from slashphilosophy) Interesting discussion. I'm a mostly straight female and I write and read mainly m/m slash. I recently realised that I've got a case of Freud's fictitious penis envy; I rather object to not being able to engage in m/m sex myself and writing about it is as close as I get, since a sex change is out of the question.

But I'm willing to believe that that's just weird.

I find the accusation of internalised misogyny vaguely uncomfortable. I have always found it far more difficult to think myself into the heads of women than I do of men. Is that misogyny? If I read straight sex I am more inclined to think myself into the man's place than the woman's, and with F/F I'm a bit stuck, so despite finding many of the characters sexually attractive I tend to avoid F/F slash.

I doubt that most slash readers/writers have gender identity problems, though, even this mild!
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From:mofic
Date:February 3rd, 2009 06:49 pm (UTC)
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Well, first of all I didn't mean to accuse anyone of anything. I'm just trying to understand things to the best of my ability and coming up with constructs that I think help explain some of them and asking for people to tell me what they think. And one thing that puzzles me is what I've seen of women who say that they find textual descriptions of sex that include descriptions of women "gross" or "disgusting." Some women *seem* to be saying that a woman's body in a sexual situation causes them disgust. That makes me sad, and I think "internalized misogyny" is just a way of describing it, but I certainly didn't say it to make you uncomfortable or to make an accusation.

I do think there are lots of other reasons women don't want women in the sexual scene, and some of them were discussed in the essay and some in comments (and I'm sure there are some that haven't been discussed). One is that the presence of another woman makes some women feel jealous of her and competitive towards her and they find those feelings anaphrodisiac. Your view that it's easier to identify with a man is yet another explanation, although it seems not to preclude having a woman in the story (as you say, with a m/f you just identify with the man).

Sex change would not solve your problem, anyway, since current surgical procedures are not such that they could result in a functioning erect penis. And, from what you say, that's what you want - not acceptance as a man, not a body that looks more like the male one you feel you should have, etc.

Maybe you should experiment with strap on sex, assuming you have a cooperative male partner. I'd think that would be at least as close to the real thing as reading about it!

Anyway, I'm sorry to have made you uncomfortable and am glad to have other explanations for all the phenomena discussed in this essay, not only a preference for no women in the story. I think one of the really interesting things about slash meta is that people's views are so varied.
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From:dyke_v_palto
Date:March 3rd, 2009 02:01 pm (UTC)
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i have translated your post [into russian], would you mind me putting it on Labrys.ru with ©?
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From:mofic
Date:March 3rd, 2009 07:26 pm (UTC)
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I'd be honored. I read some Russian. May I see the translation?
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From:crazylinkin
Date:March 30th, 2009 08:49 am (UTC)
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I find it interesting that most of the slash readers and writers I know, are either lesbians or bi. I'm a gay male, so it seems like a no brainer for me to like slash, but I find it a bit perplexing for a lesbian woman to actually read and/or write slash. I think it may be in the ways women and men look at sex.

I love watching gay born and even can watch straight porn, but for some reason, I cannot enjoy lesbian porn. With fanfiction, the only kind I read and write is slash. I CANNOT stomach het pairings and femslash does absolutely nothing for me. I think this is because, as a man, I focus more on the physical nature of the pairings and less on the romance itself...if that makes any sense.

Although I absolutely adore slash, I usually find myself growing restless when there's no sex involved. And when there is sex, I find myself only reading to get to the next sex scene. However, I find that the long, well-thought out fics with minimal sex tend to be the most rewarding. So, I know part of me seeks character development and plot, but there's also a part that needs the sexually explicit bits as well. It's really difficult to find this balance in stories.

Anyways, this was an interesting read. Maybe you could do a continuation of this, about gay men and lesbian women and slash? :D
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From:mofic
Date:March 30th, 2009 11:05 am (UTC)
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Thanks for weighing in. I'm really interested in the whole issue of gay men, lesbian women and slash, but I don't know that I have any conclusions! I think I tend to have more gay male readers than most slash writers do. I've always attributed that to the fact that my characters live in something approximating the real world - there's coming out issues and gay culture stuff and HIV prevention and so on.

Most of the slash writers I know are straight, or rather are living straight lives and always have, although many identify as bi. An interesting thing about slash demographics, I think, is that it is very common to identify as bisexual without any same sex sexual activity. The only other subgroup where I find that common is urban high schools :-).

Interesting about being restless when there's no sex involved. Most of what I write is in story series, where each story is 2000-4000 words long, but they go together to make long stories or novellas of 20,000-60,000 words. Anyway, the point of that long digression into my writing habits is to talk about how much sex I put in the stories. I do feel it's important that the sex be necessary to the story, that it not just be porn, because I'm looking to do something other than porn with my fiction. OTOH, I write this particular kind of fiction in part because I'm interested in writing m/m sex and because I think it has a lot of potential to illuminate characters, advance plot, bring intensity to the story, etc.

So there is a lot of sex in the stories, although there's also a lot of plot and character. When I started writing slash, I was afraid I'd lose my reader if there wasn't sex in every story, but I find that's not necessary and not even possible to do in a natural way for long series with a lot of plot. Anyway, I'm rambling. Thanks again for commenting.
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From:romankate
Date:April 22nd, 2009 09:34 pm (UTC)
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Hi there! I found your link on slashphilosophy and I think this is a very interesting topic. I'm off to muse on it some more while I consider it even more deeply, and I'm friending you now too :)

Thanks so much for posting, and I look forward to talking with you more!
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From:mofic
Date:April 23rd, 2009 03:08 am (UTC)
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Thanks for reading, and friending. I'd love to hear your thoughts once you've thought more...
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From:heeroluva
Date:February 27th, 2011 09:18 am (UTC)
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I know this is from forever ago, but I just found it and wanted to add my two cents.

Women are more interested in text; men in pictures.

It actually depends on what mood I'm in. I tend to like pictures, but sadly there isn't much explicit fanart out there.

Many women like m/m sex where one of the men is very feminized in behavior and personality and somewhat androgynous in appearance

I personally hate it when guys are portrayed that way particularly when they actually aren't (I'd say the majority if not all of my friends would agree). I think that this subset or writers/readers seems to be younger, so thus haven't seen/read much slash or know how an actual gay relationship works or are parts of fandoms where they guys involved are actually young and/or androgynous already (particularly anime/manage fandoms and Harry Potter).

Women tend to insert themselves in the scene by imagining themselves as one or the other of the men

Big no there. I've had conversations about this with multiple people, and the only people I know that do this are the RPGs. I personally can't RP a guy because it feels weird because I'm not a guy, and it's weird imagining that I am. Most people I know would say the same.
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